Joseph Henry 1845 – 1923 .Uncrowned ‘King of Holbeck’

On the 8th November 2012 my wife and I escorted a relative of the Joseph Henry around Holbeck Cemetery and showed her the family graves and also the house where the  Henry family had lived.

Joseph Henry was born in Leeds in December 1845 to poor parents who had emigrated from Ireland in a search for work. Joseph started work at 9 years of age as a half-timer in Marshall’s Flax Mill, but he later moved on to the Round Foundry, Water Lane where he served his time learning the trade of ironfounder. On the 25th December 1868 he married a Holbeck girl Caroline Moore at Christ Church in Meadow Lane. By his efforts he was able at the age of 31  to begin his own business at the Quebec Foundry in Meadow Road and a year or two later he founded the firm of Joseph Henry Ltd in Manor Road.

Joseph was at one time a member of Leeds Trade Council and he also served for two years as the President of the Ironfounders Friendly Society. He actively associated himself with politics in the Holbeck Ward and in 1881 he was elected a member of the Holbeck Board of Guardians and soon became Chairman of that body. In 1887 he was returned as the Liberal representative for Holbeck on the City Council. His ability and courage in local politics made him the most prominent figure in the Liberal Party and by common consent he became its Leader and in this capacity he continued to devote his best energies to public work. He was a life-long total abstainer.

Joseph Henry retired as a Liberal councillor in October 1906 after 25 years of civic service; his retirement was extensively reported in all the Leeds newspapers together with the details of his retirement dinner and presentation of a large amount of silver. The silver, comprising of a coffee and tea service together with a dessert service were displayed in a local jewellers, Messrs Pearce & Son, Albion Street prior to the presentation.

In the days when he represented Holbeck Joseph Henry enjoyed such popularity and complete trust among the local people that he became known as the ‘King of Holbeck’, though uncrowned. However, his days of civic duty were not over and he was prevailed upon to return to the council in 1916, and in 1918 when aged 73 he was unanimously nominated by the Liberal Party to be Lord Mayor for 1918/19. Because Caroline, his wife, was an invalid, his daughter Ann Hartley was his Lady Mayoress. At the end of the war in 1918 there was a Holbeck Bonfire and Carnival (see advert for this on the Leeds Tapestry), the bonfire was officially lit by the Lord Mayor Joseph Henry, this event was also used to raise funds for the local Nurses Home and it raised £90 in the first year.

Joseph also became involved in the dispute between the Football League and Leeds City  Football Club even offering to run the club, but to no avail, this meant that League football came to a halt in Leeds after just eight games in the 1919/20 season, Leeds City’s place being taken by Port Vale.

Joseph Henry, whose wife Caroline had died on the 22nd September 1921, finally retired in 1922, he died on the 10th December 1923 while living in Fairfax Road where their house still stands.

by Ken Burton ; Friends of Holbeck Cemetery

photo of the  3 Henry family graves in Holbeck Cemetery


About holbeckcemetery

We're a Friends group looking after a beautiful Victorian cemetery
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